A look at the top goaltenders available at this year’s draft leads us to Russia, where Ilya Samsonov stands as the No. 1 ranked international netminder up for grabs.
Here’s what you need to know about Ilya Samsonov.
Age on June 26: 18
Birthplace: Magnitogorsk, RUS
Current team: Magnitogorsk 2 – Russian junior
Weight: 201 pounds
NHL Central Scouting rank (International goaltenders): 1st
Marek’s Take: Don’t be surprised if someone breaks from recent tradition and uses a number one pick on this goaltender. Best goalie of the bunch at this point so far. Is fundamentally sound but can also abandon structure to ‘just make a save.’ Already has NHL size for a goaltender.
An international pedigree
Samsonov wowed scouts with his play in Russia's junior hockey league this past season, where he sported a 2.66 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage to go along with an 11-4-1 record. He also turned in some spectacular play at the Under-18 Five Nations tournament, World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and World Junior A Challenge.
The massive Russian showed he's capable of a highlight-reel save when needed.
A taste of the pros
While Samsonov put up great numbers in junior and on the international circuit versus his peers, the 18-year-old also had a taste of professional hockey, appearing in one period with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Samsonov was beat two times on four shots in his one brief turn, but it's certainly possible he could ply his trade overseas for the foreseeable future as he carries a three-year contract to play in the KHL.
Mid-to-late round steal potential
While no one will argue that Samsonov faced top competition for his age group, the fundamentals and potential to succeed are there.
Given his inexperience and the possibility of him remaining in Russia, Samsonov could go anywhere from the second round to the later rounds of the draft.
He likens his own game to that of Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who went from undrafted goaltender to Vezina Trophy winner.
What they're saying...
Dennis Schellenberg of Hockey Prospectus on Samsonov:
"Samsonov is one of many good goaltender prospects who have come out of Russia lately. He is considered by some to be the best one since Andrei Vasilevsky. His big size and the ability to make big saves impresses scouts the most. Although there are concerns about his consistency and the fact that he barely competed against top competitors, Samsonov has the talent to become a starting goalie at the NHL level."